Homer And Jesus -- By: Michael J. Caba

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 28:2 (Spring 2015)
Article: Homer And Jesus
Author: Michael J. Caba

Homer And Jesus

Michael J. Caba

At the beginning of Western literature stands Homer and the influential texts, The Iliad and The Odyssey, that are attributed to this author. These works portray aspects of the Trojan War and the journey home of one of its participants, and in so doing reveal much about the ancient Mediterranean world. They were widely read and recited in antiquity and, as such, they are excellent primary sources for those interested in studying the biblical world, particularly the competing worldviews that

Wikimedia Commons

Amphora with Achilles and Ajax engaged in a game, sixth century BC, Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Christianity encountered when it spread from its Jewish roots. In effect, by comparing and contrasting the teachings of Jesus and his followers with other beliefs, we can discover the unique features of the Faith—and Homer provides a treasure trove of such opportunities.

To begin with, one of the primary purposes for which the Homeric epics were composed, and thereafter frequently recited, was to facilitate the continuance of the values of a patriarchal society in which the leading male participants sought glory and riches for themselves, often through warfare—though not exclusively so. To support this value system, the most potent gods were often seen as furthering the cause of the leading men. For example, Zeus actually loses sleep “pondering in his heart how he might bring honor to Achilleus,” which he eventually does through the means of vicious battles in which Achilleus slaughters foes uncounted. And so it goes throughout these stories as the leading combatants, with the support of the gods, are ever concerned about their glory and property, with women being one type of property, often willingly and in abundance.

Then, into this whirlpool of violence and acquisition comes Jesus, a rustic manual laborer from the edge of the Roman Empire who, though not being characterized by personal frailty, rejected the testosterone-controlled world of his day. Indeed, it would seem that Christ’s teachings were not only different, they were often nearly the opposite of Homeric values. For example, the possibility that a Homeric hero would “turn the other cheek” or follow the admonition to “love your enemies” is almost zero; actually, language of this type would likely have been unintelligible to these macho fighters. Instead, they would much rather “go on and win glory for ourselves” as one friend said to another while urging him to continue in deadly warfare.

Regarding material wealth,...

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